It's In The Blood


Adelaide boutique breeder Brenton Parker believes it’s a good thing exciting filly Benedetta (Hellbent) could manage only third on debut at Moe in early December.

The Jason Warren-trained three-year-old’s imperious victory in Saturday’s Inglis Sprint (1200m) was her fourth successive win since then and evoked memories, in certain ways, of another dark brown female who made pulses race with her work up the Flemington straight.

“At least the pressure was off after that first start at Moe,” Parker tells It’s In The Blood. “If we were five out of five you might be thinking ‘Black Caviar’ – and you wouldn’t sleep at night!”

You almost dare not type the words, for it’s like comparing a young batsman to Bradman, with the kiss of death just as assured. But Benedetta, while of course having light years to go before she could be mentioned in the same galaxy as the unbeaten Black Caviar, is starting to create quite a buzz in the great mare’s home town of Melbourne.

Carrying the black and orange Laurence Eales colours borne memorably by Melbourne Cup winner Shocking and his fellow son of Street Cry, Whobegotyou, Benedetta had her first look at Flemington and straight racing on Saturday, having won twice over 1300 metres at Sandown after her second-up success at Cranbourne over 1200 metres.

And she didn’t just win the $750,000 Inglis feature. Taking on 15 quality males and females, the $5.50 favourite annihilated her rivals, coming from 12th at the 400 metres and exploding at the 200 metres to win by three lengths. She clocked 1:09.24, five lengths better than standard.

She’ll next likely seek black type in the Listed Sunlight Classic, a $500,000 three-year-old open handicap also up the Flemington straight, over 1100 metres, on Australian Cup day, March 25. Then may come a well-earned spell before the spring, after a first campaign which has taken the breath away.

Benedetta looks likely to be a flagbearer for her sire Hellbent (I Am Invincible), in what many expect to be the Yarraman Park stallion’s transition to the next level as a sire. After a slowish start, the son of I Am Invincible has been gathering pace, sitting second among Australia’s second season sires at present, and possibly on the cusp of many more stakes winners than his current sole Listed contributor.

And Benedetta is also extending a rich vein of form for her breeder, who’s been weaving some thoroughbred gold from his half-dozen mares of late.

Last May, the Parker-bred Extremely Lucky (Extreme Choice) featured in this column after winning a Morphettville Benchmark 72. He then took the Lightning Stakes at the same track and placed third, also at Listed level, at Moonee Valley in the Carlyon Stakes.

On Saturday, another of Parker’s products, four-year-old gelding Limited Risk (Astern) won the first race at Murray Bridge on debut. A few hours later Communist (Russian Revolution) – from a Parker-bred mare in Cappadocia (Northern Meteor),won the Group 1 Randwick Guineas. In between was Benedetta’s star turn at Flemington.

“As a breeder with only a few mares, it was a really good day,” says the 74-year-old Parker, who with wife Liz also bred three-time Group 1 winner Happy Trails (Good Journey), and who keeps his mares at Chris Watson’s renowned Mill Park Stud, on the Limestone Coast top end of South Australia’s Coorong waterway.

Looking way back, there are large helpings of colonial blue blood in Benedetta’s pedigree to tickle the hearts of nostalgists.

Her fifth dam was Leica Show (Showdown), bred and trained by Bart Cummings, who scored five stakes wins as diverse as the 1974 VRC Oaks (2500m) and the following year’s MVRC William Reid Stakes and STC Canterbury Stakes over just 1200 metres. Her dam Miss Valeica (Valognes) – whose grandsire was the famed French stallion born in 1935, Bois Roussel – threw another Cummings-trained star in Leica Lover (Latin Lover), who scored nine stakes wins.

At stud, Leica Show threw the Cummings-bred pair Leica Planet (Planet Kingdom), winner of the Group 1 SAJC Goodwood, and Chateau Leica (Century), dam of dual Group 1 winner of the early 1990s Pharaoh (Sackford), and now Benedetta’s fourth dam.

The filly’s third dam is Leica Or Not (Kendor), who left three stakes winners including two at the top level in Light Fantastic (Danehill Dancer), the 2008 Australian Guineas winner, and 1998 New Zealand Derby victor Leica Guv (Deputy Governor). Leica Or Not also threw Benedetta’s second dam Krysia (Elvstroem), but that’s where this lineage’s black type dries up.

Krysia did little to boost Elvstroem’s disappointing stud record, with two bush placings from only three starts. At stud, she went first to an only slightly better performed stallion in Domesday (Red Ransom) to produce Whatalovelyday, who sold as a yearling for just $5,000. She managed a Doomben win among three victories in 32 starts, but it was mostly due to some older relatives that when offered as a broodmare in 2016, the bidding reached $125,000 before she was passed in.

Again, somewhat like Benedetta’s first miss at Moe, this became good news for Parker.

For when Whatalovelyday was offered again 12 months later at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale, in-foal to Starspangledbanner, he bought her, for $150,000, with an added bit of happenstance involved thanks to his advisor Adrian Hancock.

“I was looking for a mare and she wasn’t on my list. But we got beaten on a couple and then Adrian said, ‘I quite like this one’,” Parker recalls. “We bid on her and got her, in-foal to Starspangledbanner.”

It seems a good dose of Whatalovelyday’s regal female line might have been still at play. That Starspangledbanner filly, Quick Call, was a $30,000 Adelaide Magic Millions yearling buy for David Jolly, who was progressing well in early trials, before dying from a heart attack. Parker sent his mare to Foxwedge second-up to produce Whatafox, another $30,000 Adelaide yearling who’s been Group 2 and Listed placed in Melbourne in 13 starts for her trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.

For the third cover, Parker picked a new stallion – Hellbent.

“I quite like going to first season sires. They haven’t got any bad history. They haven’t got any good history either, of course, but there’s a bit of mystique about them,” Parker says. “I do get breeding advice, and he was on the list for that mare, so that’s where we went.”

Parker is reluctant to name the source of his breeding advice, lest everyone tries it, but it appears to have worked a treat, even if Benedetta’s recent pedigree is short of stars. While the stats on Hellbent remain nascent, his famous dad and studmate I Am Invincible has had three runners out of mares who, like Whatalovelyday, are by Domesday. Two of them have won, and one is Group 3 and Listed winner La Mexicana.

Benedetta fetched only $75,000 as a yearling through Mill Park’s draft at Inglis Premier (her subsequent Invader filly and Rubick colt averaged $140,000). But her buyers believed they spied a filly who’d develop, and appear to have been vindicated in spades.

“She was really immature, quite small-footed, with not a lot of muscle on her,” says Eales Racing’s Aaron Corby. “But she had a really nice frame, but just hadn’t laid down that typical muscle that makes horses jump out at sales.

“But she just had this incredible, big, relaxed walk on her, and she never turned a hair at the sale. Mill Park’s barn is just by the auditorium at Premier, and there’s plenty of traffic around, but every time I saw her, she just walked up and down with her head down, beautifully relaxed.

“You could just see she could furnish into that racehorse. Thankfully, we’re lucky to have patience, and patient owners. We don’t get those weekly phonecalls asking, ‘When’s my horse going to race?’ So that patience is hopefully paying off.”

So is that shown in Hellbent. He still only has the one stakes winner – Graeme Begg’s two-from-two filly Magic Time, who scored in Listed class at the Melbourne Cup carnival. But, sitting second on the sophomore sires’ table by earnings and winners, it seems most markers are lining up well for the ten-year-old.

Hellbent is behind only the surging Russian Revolution among second season sires, with 30 winners compared to the leader’s 34. And while Russian Revolution is a stand-out, with six career stakes winners, the other eight in the top ten can boast just five stakes winners between them, showing Hellbent is no straggler in terms of his one blacktype victor so far.

“I think they’ll come,” says Yarraman’s Arthur Mitchell. “That’s what the trainers who’ve got Hellbents are telling us. They can run at two, but they’re getting better with age, so it’s all pretty positive.”

Mitchell said Hellbent – who’s covered books capped at around 150 mares for the past three seasons at $22,000 – was likely to have his fee increased slightly this year. If Benedetta is an indication of what his stock can do at three and older, it could yet reach far higher.